A Georgia woman’s chemical hair relaxer lawsuit that alleges L’Oréal, SoftSheen-Carson and Strength of Nature failed to warn the public that their products contained toxic chemicals that can cause uterine fibroids will proceed despite the defendants’ attempts to dismiss the case.

The plaintiff, Kiara Burroughs, used chemical hair straighteners — commonly known as hair relaxers — from the age of six until she was about 25 years old in 2014, according to court documents. Burroughs developed uterine fibroids, and after studies revealed the link between chemical hair straighteners and the fibroids, she filed her original lawsuit in 2022.

She is suing L’Oréal and other defendants on counts that include failure to warn, fraud, manufacturing defects and general negligence.

Burroughs told Georgia Public Broadcasting that she wants to hold defendants accountable.

“Accountability is always first on the list. And then second on the list is if you can’t make these products any safer, then they need to be removed,” Burroughs’ lawyer told GPB in January 2024.

In their original motion, the defendants claimed the case should be dismissed because of preemption laws and that Georgia’s statutes of limitations and statutes of repose prevented her from filing the case. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the statute of limitations had not run, and her claim wasn’t preempted by federal laws.

Defendants filed an appeal, and the Georgia Court of Appeals allowed the case to proceed on some of its claims, including fraud and negligence. The case will be remanded back to trial court for additional rulings.

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Defendants Face Thousands of Hair Relaxer Claims

Burroughs’ case will continue in Georgia, and more than 8,100 hair relaxer lawsuits are pending in the Northern District of Illinois multidistrict litigation (MDL). Many of these claims focus on uterine, endometrial and ovarian cancer.

Like Burroughs, these women claim defendants failed to warn them that toxic chemicals in the products caused their health problems. They also claim the companies targeted women of color in their marketing.

The smoking gun in these cases was a study published in 2022 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that found a link between hair straightening products and uterine cancer. Other studies found links to ovarian cancer.

The theory posed in the studies and lawsuits is that the chemicals in hair relaxers — such as phthalates, parabens and DEHP — are endocrine disruptors, and therefore, they cause abnormal cells to grow and lead to cancers.

The longer a woman uses these products, the greater her cancer risk. Burroughs began using relaxers at age six.

Attorney Daniel Nigh told Drugwatch that many of his clients started using these products at an early age. As a result, some of his clients are in their 20s and being treated for cancer. Some had to have hysterectomies or other treatments that left them unable to have children in their childbearing years.

“[Hair relaxer companies] heavily targeted black women, and obviously other communities of color, as well, for a long period of time, and from a very young age,” Nigh said.

On June 13, 2024, Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan appointed Professor Maura R. Grossman to serve as Special Master for the multidistrict litigation in Illinois according to Case Management Order Number 12. Rowland will assist with discovery disputes and provide recommendations as necessary to the judges.

So far, there are no firm trial dates set in this litigation and discovery continues.